Railroad unions ratify agreements

Contracts cover more than 85,000 rail workers

MEMBERS OF THE Boilermakers’ Railroad Division ratified a national agreement negotiated by the Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition (RLBC) and the National Carrier’s Conference Committee (NCCC) on June 25. The agreement (29 months in the making) will expire Dec. 31, 2009, and provides general wage increases totaling 17 percent, or 18.2 percent compounded over the life of the agreement).

The NCCC represents the nation’s major freight railroads, including Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Kansas City Southern. The RLBC represents seven rail labor unions whose contracts cover more than 85,000 rail workers — more than 50 percent of the carriers’ employees. The seven RLBC unions are the American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, National Conference of Firemen and Oilers/SEIU, and the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association.

Negotiations concluded in May following two-and-one-half years of bargaining, after which the unions submitted the tentative agreement to their members for ratification. The final results were received June 25. Of the seven RLBC member unions, only the American Train Dispatchers Association failed to ratify the agreement.

“From the legal counsel to the consultants we retained, the coalition demonstrated the extraordinary value of solidarity,” said Dan Hamilton, assistant director of the Boilermakers’ Railroad Division. “Together we achieved far more than we could have separately. That is the power of the RLBC.”

The contract gives up no work rules, raises net wages over 16 percent after cost sharing for health and welfare, caps employee health and welfare contributions, expands access to in-network medical benefits for most of the 25 percent of rail employees previously denied them, and provides no concessions on contracting out or the carriers’ work exit demands.